The horses are galloping once again in Riverfront Park.
The Looff Carrousel will open its doors 1 p.m. May 12 in a grand opening ceremony that will follow the city’s Junior Lilac Parade, park officials announced Thursday. Two dollars will get you a seat on one of the 109-year-old carrousel’s historic wooden horses, all of which have been restored and repainted for the debut.
“This is the first time, we believe, in the history of the Looff Carrousel that all the horses were redone at the same time,” said Leroy Eadie, director of Spokane Parks, on a tour of the new facility Thursday afternoon.
Thursday marked the first time since January 2017, when the attraction closed, that the horses were spinning once again in Spokane.
Park planners originally suggested the carrousel might be open in time for Bloomsday. Instead, the grounds surrounding the attraction will be open this weekend. That includes a functioning Rotary Fountain, rebuilt as part of the work done by Walker Construction on the carrousel and its grounds, as well as the return of the garbage-sucking goat sculpture.
“The contractors are quickly finishing up their work,” Eadie said. “The carrousel’s not going to be open until next weekend, but citizens are going to be able to come down and enjoy the new grounds.”
Those grounds included a lighted wooden boardwalk that winds its way along the north side of the new structure, linking the area beneath the Rotary Fountain with the Centennial Trail beneath the Stevens Street bridge. Bloomies and their supporters also will be able to trek across the newly rebuilt Howard Street Bridge, which was completed earlier this year at a cost just shy of $5 million. The span has remained closed as a staging area for work on the south bank attractions as well as the under-construction U.S. Pavilion.
Also returning will be the ring toss game. Riders can pick up plastic, gold-painted rings and attempt to chuck them at a vinyl recreation of the Garbage Goat carrying a bucket, officials said, replacing the clown that had been the previous target.
Sometime later this spring or early summer, the park will introduce a $5 option for unlimited rides on the historic carrousel, built by its namesake Charles Looff. Originally installed at Natatorium park, the carrousel remained there until 1975, when it was moved after Expo ‘74 into the old Bavarian beer hall which housed it for more than 40 years.
Spokane Parks Director Jonathan Moog said the city would wait to introduce the unlimited passes to ensure everyone would get a turn on the new carrousel.
“We expect just overwhelming support from the community, coming out here and using it,” Moog said.
Three party rooms also will be available for rent, and a new patio has been constructed on the building’s northeast corner where planners envision the sale of alcohol at a later date.
With the completion of the Looff Carrousel building, the $64 million renovation of Riverfront Park is about one-third complete, Eadie said. The Spokane Park Board still is considering the final tallies for the carrousel building and the skating ribbon, which opened in December. As of last month’s Park Board meeting, officials have approved $9.2 million for the construction of the carrousel and the surrounding areas, including the rebuilt Rotary Fountain. The skating ribbon’s total cost is now around $8.1 million.
The SkyRide gondolas still are not open to the public. Moog said the contractor needed to do some additional work on the attraction and that opening was expected in mid-June.
The Park Board will decide next week the location of the park’s signature art piece, Step Well. The architect in charge of the design, J. Meejin Yoon, originally suggested building the $360,000 laminated wood structure in the Clocktower Meadow, which would be visible from the back of one of the carrousel’s horses. Eadie said representatives of the park board and the Spokane arts community are now recommending moving the project closer to the former site of the YMCA building, now a conservation area.
The city is also in talks with the booster group Visit Spokane to set up shop in the former location of the Fountain Cafe. Concessions already are available in the skating ribbon building and sodas, popcorn and cotton candy will be sold in the carrousel building, Moog said, freeing up the walk-up restaurant site for a potential fact-finding location for the city that could be operated by Visit Spokane.
An agreement between the city and Visit Spokane to operate the visitor’s center in the Fountain Cafe is up for a vote of the City Council on Monday afternoon.
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